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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oxford University releases new round of interview questions | The Guardian - Philosophy

The Guardian, 12 October 2017.

"Candidates asked to consider the purpose of law and the morality of air travel in latest batch of sample interview material"  inform Sally Weale, education correspondent for the Guardian.
Oxford students pass the Radcliffe Camera on their way to matriculation.
Photo: Pete Lusabia/Alamy

Efforts by Oxford University to elucidate its interview process and soothe applicants’ nerves got under way this week with the annual release of sample questions and – crucially – the answers to them. 

Law candidates invited to interview could find themselves being asked: “Should it be illegal to run a red light in the middle of the night on an empty road?” Those applying to study modern languages might be asked: “What do we lose if we only read a foreign work of literature in translation?”
Students of medicine, meanwhile, could be challenged to put the following countries – Bangladesh, Japan, South Africa, UK – in order by their crude mortality rate, and philosophy candidates might be asked to reflect on individual responsibility and the morality of air travel.

As this year’s intake begins to settle in, including campaigner and Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai who attended her first lectures at Oxford this week, the next round of applications is about to begin with the Oxbridge deadline on 15 October.
Candidates who successfully clear the first hurdle with their written application will be invited to interview in December. At Oxford just over half of all applicants will be interviewed, compared with 75% at Cambridge.
Students are encouraged to regard the interview as a short conversation tutorial about their subject. On average, it takes around 20 minutes; shortlisted students will have at least two interviews, with two different sets of interviewers, often in more than one college.
Dr Samina Khan, director of admissions and outreach at Oxford, said as well as sample questions, candidates could prepare by looking at mock interviews online, as well as video diaries by admissions tutors during the interview process...

The sample question for PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) candidates reads: “‘I agree that air transport contributes to harmful climate change. But whether or not I make a given plane journey, the plane will fly anyway. So there is no moral reason for me to not travel by plane.’ Is this a convincing argument?”

They are not being tested on their knowledge of philosophy, explained Cécile Fabre, professor at All Souls College, but on their ability to think critically about the issue of individuals’ responsibility for harmful collective action.

“Some candidates might say that the argument is a good one: given that what I do makes no difference, I have no moral reason not to do it. At this point, I would want to know what they consider a moral reason to be (as distinct from or similar to, for example, a practical or prudential reason).

Source: The Guardian

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Suggested Books of the Week 41, 2017

Check out these books below by Cambridge University Press.

Exploring Mathematics - An Engaging Introduction to Proof

Exploring Mathematics
An Engaging Introduction to Proof
Exploring Mathematics gives students experience with doing mathematics - interrogating mathematical claims, exploring definitions, forming conjectures, attempting proofs, and presenting results - and engages them with examples, exercises, and projects that pique their interest. Written with a minimal number of pre-requisites, this text can be used by college students in their first and second years of study, and by independent readers who want an accessible introduction to theoretical mathematics...
The end-of-chapter exercises and projects provide students with opportunities to confirm their understanding of core material, learn new concepts, and develop mathematical creativity.
  • Mixes the creativity and rigor that is essential to conducting mathematical enquiry and includes model proofs as well as a range of accessible topics, such as Fibonacci numbers and games, to encourage students to explore and to build intuition and background
  • Engages the reader thanks to in-text exercises with complete solutions and robust hints included in an appendix and helps students develop the skill of frequently interrogating the definitions, examples, and arguments presented
  • Offers students the opportunity to practice their mathematical writing skills in response to sometimes challenging questions, and with less emphasis on formal logic and rote proof-writing exercises

An Introduction to Indian Philosophy

An Introduction to
Indian Philosophy
This wide-ranging introduction to classical Indian philosophy is philosophically rigorous without being too technical for beginners. Through detailed explorations of the full range of Indian philosophical concerns, including some metaphilosophical issues, it provides readers with non-Western perspectives on central areas of philosophy, including epistemology, logic, metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of religion. 

The Psychology of Musical Development

The Psychology of
Musical Development
The Psychology of Musical Development provides an up-to-date and comprehensive account of the latest theory, empirical research and applications in the study of musical development, an important and emerging field of music psychology...
With an emphasis on practical applications throughout, this book will be essential reading for students and scholars of music psychology, developmental psychology, music education and music therapy.
  • Advances the study of musical development, a field which has expanded beyond recognition in the last thirty years 
  • Provides a state-of-the-art summary of theories in this field, including cognitive stage models, neuroscience, socio-cultural theory, self-theory, ecological models and social cognitive approaches 
  • Devotes attention to practical applications of music psychology, especially in child development, music education, and health and well-being

Probability and Computing
Randomization and Probabilistic Techniques in Algorithms and Data Analysis 

Probability and Computing
Randomization and Probabilistic
Techniques in Algorithms and Data Analysis
Greatly expanded, this new edition requires only an elementary background in discrete mathematics and offers a comprehensive introduction to the role of randomization and probabilistic techniques in modern computer science...
This book provides an indispensable teaching tool to accompany a one- or two-semester course for advanced undergraduate students in computer science and applied mathematics.
  • Contains all the background in probability needed to understand many subdisciplines of computer science 
  • Includes new material relevant to machine learning and big data analysis, enabling students to learn new, up-to-date techniques and applications 
  • Newly added chapters and sections cover the normal distribution, sample complexity, VC dimension, naïve Bayes, cuckoo hashing, power laws, and the Lovasz Local Lemma 
  • Many new exercises and examples, including several new programming-related exercises, provide students with excellent training in problem solving

Source: Cambridge University Press

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Retired and want to keep your brain engaged? REAP Talks may be for you |

Photo: Erin Arvedlund
"Looking to keep your brain active post-retirement? Enough that you could give a presentation on something you know nothing about in front of 75 retired professionals and executives — without mentioning politics or religion?" reports Erin Arvedlund, Inquirer Staff Writer.

REAP Talks members meet every Wednesday for senior continuing-education lectures they present to one another. Chauncey Harris (foreground) is considering giving a history lecture.
Photo: Erin Arvedlund

REAP Talks may have what you seek.

Members meet every Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center,  700 N. Cedar Rd., Jenkintown. Part of the draw is researching and learning enough to give a 90-minute presentation to other members about a topic that’s brand new to you.

The group maintains its own website ( and requires dues of $55 a year, much less than a semester at a local college. Anyone can join, although a brief interview is required, and REAP Talks follows the schedule of the academic school year — September to June.

Sylvia Silverman of Willow Grove spoke Sept. 27 about “Philadelphia: Then and Now,” with photos and PowerPoint slides that will be posted on the website. Alice Parker will speak Oct. 25 on the fall of the Berlin Wall. Chauncey Harris, a new member and retired Elkins Park lawyer, is still thinking about his topic.

“Probably something related to history,” Harris said.

REAP was founded in 1970, the brainchild of two women on the board of Cheltenham Township Adult School, which sponsors classes in the evening. They formed Retired Executives and Professionals as a separate educational experience for seniors, or “those who were seasoned,” said current president Alice Ingber, who will give a talk next year on “lighter-than-air vehicles.”

The New School in New York’s Greenwich Village served as the model, with the goal of helping seniors retain cognition, particularly those who had retired from their working lives. 

Each member researches a topic and makes a presentation to the group once every 18 months to two years.

“Although the general subject area may be familiar to you, the talk itself should represent information that is generally new to you,” said Jim Rubillo, who gave a talk on Smedley Butler, the controversial 1930s Marine Corps general who also served as Philadelphia public-safety director.

Some topics are verboten: book reviews; travelogues; religious or political subjects. Historical and cultural topics that touch on religion or politics are acceptable.

“No one wants to hear what you did for your job,” said Joe Tomei, who gave a talk on John L. Lewis, the American labor organizer of coal miners.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading
Emmet Robinson, 78, has been running King Street Recording for 50 years.
Photo: David Swanson / Staff Photographer
Reinvent yourself, and reinvent again, advises a 78-year-old Malvern studio founder by Erin Arvedlund.


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The Centuries-Old Strategy That Turbocharged My Productivity by Amy Carleton | The Cut - Science Of Us

It’s an old-school paper-planner system that requires a little micromanaging, but the payoff is worth it.

Photo: Nick David/Getty Images

A few years ago, I assigned Ben Franklin’s Autobiography as reading for the literature survey class I was teaching — and, well, to say my students didn’t relate very well might be putting it mildly. Among other things, Franklin’s memoir devotes a fair amount of space to explaining his daily strategy for maximum productivity, which includes a 5 a.m. wakeup, designated blocks of time for work, meals, and activities like “put[ting] things in their places”; there’s also time allotted for “diversion,” but no hour is without a designated purpose, a way of ensuring that as much time as possible is spent working toward a daily goal. In class, many of my students were vocal in their belief that his schedule was oppressive. A few of them wondered out loud why anyone would intentionally micromanage their day to such an extreme.

One possible answer: A timeline means accountability, something I learned earlier this year after resolving to get a handle on the messiness that ruled my life. Six months ago, my way of getting things done was last-minute and without a clearly defined work plan. This was especially true during periods when I had more flexibility in my schedule. Last winter break, for example, I had a solid five weeks of time that, in theory, should have been incredibly productive — I was largely freed from my daily duties of teaching, meetings, and grading, and made a long list of things that I hoped to accomplish with all my free time. Some were abstract (“Get in better shape”) and others more concrete (“Submit journal article”). I ended up accomplishing a few of them before the spring term started up, but for the most part, I just moved my goals from one to-do list to another.

A few weeks into the new semester, panic started to set in as I recognized some hard deadlines that were fast approaching. After an all-nighter grading papers that had me exhausted for days, I knew I needed to find a better way.  In a moment of desperation, I clicked on a Facebook ad for a paper planner that promised to help me “optimize my day, tackle my goals, and become happier.”

When the planner arrived at my door a few days later, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Franklin’s meticulous planning. Each page was broken down into 30-minute chunks of time, where I’d have to log everything — workouts, meals, Netflix watching. There was also space to enter a daily goal, along with the action items that would help me move closer to it.

As I sat with my pen in hand, mapping out my exact plan for the next day, I felt silly. Couldn’t I do this in Google Calendar? Was time-blocking really the thing that would push me to get things done, or did I just get duped into buying an expensive notebook? It did feel a little extreme, scribbling in the time of my spin class and writing down the exact length of an afternoon break — like I was prematurely sucking all the spontaneity, all the potential for inspiration, out of the day.

Source: The Cut

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Minnesota West earns ranking for online programs | Daily Globe

Minnesota West Community and Technical College has earned the No.3 spot in the statewide ranking of top colleges for online programs, according to

Campus Welcome sign.
Photo: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minnesota West scored higher than 70 other institutions in the state. To come up with the top online colleges ranking, used 14 different criteria focused on affordability, student success, number of online programs offered, distance learning participation and more.  

The statewide study praises Minnesota West Community and Technical College for offering 28 online programs options, as well as affordable in-state tuition and fees. The complete ranking and methodology can be viewed at

Source: Daily Globe

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6 ways humankind might accidentally bring about the ‘techpocalypse’ | Digital Trends - Emerging Tech

Photo: Luke Dormehl
"They may sound like scenarios from a Michael Crichton thriller, but here are six plausible ways that technology could bring down life as we know it" writes Luke Dormehl, UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends.

Photo: Ollie Millington/Getty Images

Here in 2017, technology’s pretty great. It’s helping us live longer, healthier lives, with more access to education and entertainment, and tools like artificial intelligence and gene-editing are providing new ways to solve major problems. But not everything about technology is swell. As the cultural theorist Paul Virilio once noted, the inventor of the ship is also the inventor of the shipwreck. In other words, no matter how good technology might look, there’s always something that can go wrong.

On that cheery note, here are six of the most likely ways we might spring the techpocalypse on ourselves.

Photo: Universal Pictures
The arrival of superintelligence and the technological singularity is based on the assumption that it’s possible for A.I. to one day possess abilities greater than our own. Compared to humans who are limited by biological evolution, machines could then improve and redesign themselves at an ever increasing pace; becoming smarter all the time. At this point, enormous changes would inevitably take place in human society — which have the possibility of posing an existential risk to humankind.

It’s impossible to predict how an entity more intelligence than us would behave, but the results could be anything from machines wiping out humanity, Terminator-style, to enslaving the world’s population. Heck, combine artificial intelligence with nanotechnology and you might get a scenario like…

Photo: RIJASOLO/AFP/Getty Images
The words “grey goo” are rarely associated with positive life experiences. This particular hypothesis is one which has arisen with the advance of nanotechnology, in which self-replicating nanotechnology consumes all the matter on our planet.

It was first proposed by nanotechnology expert Kim Eric Drexler in his book Engines of Creation, in which he writes that: “Imagine … a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself… The first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight. At the end of 10 hours, there are not 36 new replicators, but over 68 billion. In less than a day, they would weigh a ton; in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth; in another four hours, they would exceed the mass of the sun and all the planets combined – if the bottle of chemicals hadn’t run dry long before.”

The idea was shocking enough that it prompted the U.K.’s future monarch Prince Charles to call the Royal Society to investigate it. Right now the technology for self-replicating nanobots doesn’t exist. But, hey, there’s always tomorrow!

Source: Digital Trends

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Technology ain’t enough | Republica - Opinion

Photo: Hitesh Karki
Hitesh Karki discovered there were just two Nepali classes on YouTube. The rest were in Hindi.

Photo: Republica

Teachers considered teaching computers an additional burden and expected to be paid ‘extra’ for it. 

Online Learning Exchange Nepal (OLE Nepal), launched in 2007 with the aim of using technology to transform learning through engagement, exploration and experimentation, is official ‘technology’ partner of the Ministry of Education. It will celebrate 10 years of online learning in Nepal soon.
According to its website, in the past decade, it has sent 5,000+ laptops in 200+ schools, trained 1,000+ teachers on integrating ICT in the classroom teaching-learning process, developed 600+ learning modules to be used by teachers, and created a digital library with 6,000+ books and other items used in schools and community libraries. It now covers 208 schools spread over 32 districts and is perhaps the single biggest government initiative to bring technology into classrooms.

Poor results 
A couple of years after its launch, OLE assessed its impact. Its report says several factors led to lack of significant impact on student learning: The program is relatively new and thus it is too early to gauze its impact, not all teachers took one-week intensive training held before program launch, some teachers may not have used available digital resources due to the increase in workload that this entailed, and digital content, while following the curriculum taught in school, was too difficult for students to grasp. 

The results were disappointing, with no effect on student test scores even though both teachers and students reported liking the digital contents and finding them useful. While everyone expected technology to make critical impact on learning process, the results went against all popular notions and beliefs. 

This reminds one of an excerpt from Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s book, Freedom as Development, which highlights how we as humans often tend to be thoroughly ‘disillusioned’ while in a pursuit of a singular goal. The story goes like this.

Bordering the Bay of Bengal, there is Sundarban—a beautiful forest—a natural habitat of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger, but whose population continues to dwindle. Surviving tigers are protected by hunting bans. The forest is also famous for honey. Desperately poor people living in the region go to the forest to collect honey that fetches a handsome price in urban markets. But honey collectors also have to escape tigers. In a ‘good year’, a minimum of 50 or so honey gatherers are killed by the tigers. While the tigers are protected, nothing protects the miserable human beings trying to make a living from the woods.

While one may think it is stupid to venture into a dangerous protected area, one should remember that human inhabitants once coexisted with the tigers. Keeping the tigers in an enclosed area may have helped save more tigers, but at the cost of daily livelihood of people and often even their lives. 

Culture v computer  
Seymour Papert, the late professor at MIT’s Media Technology, once said that the context for human development is always a culture, not an isolated technology. His idea was that in the presence of computers, cultures might change and with it so will people’s ways of learning and thinking. But if one wants to understand (or influence) the change, one has to pay attention to the culture—not the computer. 

Perhaps this helps us understand “Technocentrism”—a term attributed to Papert—which means that the person has difficulty in understanding anything independently of the self.
Read more...  

Source: Republica

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MIT Moves Beyond the MOOC to Court Companies, Professional Learners | EdSurge - Postsecondary Learning

Photo: Sydney Johnson
"Providing courses to companies, and adults not enrolled in a full-time degree program, has long been a way for universities to extend their reach (and pockets) beyond the physical lecture hall" summarizes Sydney Johnson, assistant editor for EdSurge HigherEd.

Photo: 88studio/ Shutterstock

In 2013, MIT began offering online programs for working professionals to meet learners across the globe.

Until lately, those online MIT courses have somewhat resembled so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs, says Clara Piloto, director of global programs at MIT Professional Education. Now, as MOOCs have evolved to court professional audiences, so too have MIT’s efforts to harness companies and organizations. Most recently, that’s taken the form of with certificate-based Digital Plus Programs.

“We have always worked with corporations and companies, it’s part of the DNA here at MIT in terms of our research and innovation,” says Piloto. “But [Digital Plus] is an evolution of our existing digital programs.”

There are few key differences between MIT Professional Education’s new and existing online offerings. For starters, Digital Plus will not be “open enrollment,” meaning the courses will only be available to paying companies or organizations. Piloto says that’s meant to enable each course to be capped at 50 students—a sharp scale back from the more MOOC-like courses, which can enroll as many as 1,500 students at a time.

Capping each class allows Digital Plus courses to provide a tighter, more focused learning experience, Piloto says. Digital Plus courses—which are taught by MIT lecturers—will focus on project- and team-based exercises, along with a combination of videos, reading materials, and group work. Those elements of the curriculum may take place online, in-person via video, physically on the MIT campus, or at a company site.

By taking four Digital Plus courses, which last six to 10 weeks, students can also obtain a MIT-stamped professional certificate. That process takes about two years, estimates Piloto, but a certificate of completion is also awarded at the end of each individual course. The first two certificate programs include Strategic Leadership and Innovation and Leading in the Transformative Era, which “focuses on the business impact of key trends in the fourth industrial revolution,” the program website reads.

“Not everyone can come to MIT, and taking a course on the ground is a lot more expensive than taking an online course,” says Piloto. “We see it as a way to make our courses available to people who might never be able to come to MIT.”

Source: EdSurge

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Program helps low-income Utah families gain 'essential' online access | Deseret News - Education

Photo: Jasen Lee
"A program aimed at helping low-income families in Utah connect to the online world is expanding to include more people. Comcast customers will also have access to free digital literacy training in print, online and in person" reports Jasen Lee, journalist for Deseret News/KSL
Ashley Lake uses a laptop to do homework at her home in Midvale on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Comcast’s Internet Essentials program offers income-qualified households basic high-speed online service for $10 per month. Having internet access at home allowed Machelle Lake's kids to study whenever needed, and it gave her the ability to search for — and eventually find — a job. After using the $10 monthly program for two years, the family was able to transition to regular broadband service, she said.
Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For Machelle Lake, giving her four children the best opportunity for academic success has always been a high priority.

But as a single mother, that's often proved challenging, especially with few financial resources to help pay for a "luxury" like home internet service.

A program aimed at helping low-income families and individuals in Utah connect to the online world has provided a means for Lake's family and others take advantage of opportunities made available through ready online access.

Lake is one of more than 64,000 Utahns who have enrolled in Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which offers income-qualified households basic high-speed online service for $10 per month.

Lake, 50, said she was unemployed when she signed up for the service at her Midvale home, knowing she needed to get connected if she's going to improve her life and those of her children.

"My two youngest kids were on free or reduced lunch, so we were able to get (internet service) and purchase a laptop as well," she said.

In addition to the basic internet service (15 megabits per second), Comcast offers customers refurbished laptop computers for $150, something that has made a big difference in Lake's household, she said.

"I had a child in high school, junior high and two in elementary school," Lake said. "In high school, so much of the student's and teacher's curriculum is online. Without the computer at home, my kids would have to go to the library to do their homework or at the Boys and Girls Club."

Having internet access at home has allowed Lake's kids to study whenever needed, and it gave her the ability to search for — and eventually find — a job. After using the $10 monthly program for two years, the family was able to transition to regular broadband service, she said.

"Had we not had that, my kids educational (achievement) would have been lower," Lake said. "If we couldn't have accessed (homework) assignments at night, then they would have missed out on those assignments. They were able to stay on track with their classmates."

Source: Deseret News

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Steve Wozniak launches online university aimed at making tech ed more affordable | TechRadar - World of tech new

Woz's new university will only be online at first, but will eventually have campuses in 30 cities worldwide.

Photo: Steve Wozniak

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak believes it’s currently too expensive to earn a degree in tech, and so he recently announced the opening of Woz U, an online university that aims to make tech education more affordable.

You’ll currently only find the Arizona-based Woz U online, but Wozniak hopes he’ll eventually see physical campuses in over 30 cities in the US and throughout the world.

Woz U’s current programs only include software development and training to be computer support specialists, but additional programs for data science, mobile applications, and cybersecurity programs are reportedly “coming soon.”

"Our goal is to educate and train people in employable digital skills without putting them into years of debt," Wozniak said in a prepared statement. "People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can't do it. I know they can, and I want to show them how."

Woz U also provides K-12 schools with STEAM programs that help ease kids into a career in tech. Businesses can benefit from his “Woz U Enterprise” program, which helps companies train their employees to handle new technology. 

Source: TechRadar

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